It’s been over a year since we began to quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, businesses have amended their operations in order to manage the transition to remote work. For many, the transition has been challenging. On a positive note, many organizations have been forced to catalyze some of their existing efforts to modernize processes and digitize operations. For some, that has meant the adoption of cloud services. According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud revenue grew more than 6% in 2020 and worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services is forecasted to grow more than 18% in 2021. 

One change that many organizations had to adapt to was the increased need for digital document management. Although a Document Management System (DMS) can play an important role in effective collaboration between employees and streamlining day-to-day business operations, the implementation is not always as smooth and sustainable as we expect. More often than not, an insufficient approach to document management leaves many organizations with digital documents in multiple locations or personal file-sharing accounts. Without a centralized source of truth and with the inevitable growth rate of digital information, this unsustainable approach leads to chaos, frustration, and wasted resources. 

5 Misconceptions About Digital Document Storage

Whether you’re still in the process of implementing an effective document management system or your current solution simply isn’t cutting it, there are many mistakes and misconceptions to be familiar with. In the article, we’ll walk you through what to know and avoid so that you can leave feeling more confident in your path to digitization. 

Misconceptions about Digital Document Storage

Misconception #1: Digital Documents Stored on Shared Network Drives are Secure

Cloud sharing on shared network drives is popular among many workers who are looking to share documents quickly and conveniently. Working in the cloud allows easier collaboration and is preferable to email for larger documents. However, this strategy of document sharing and collaboration presents significant security risks. 

Many employees will use a plethora of free vendors for file sharing and have numerous accounts associated with personal emails that are not audited or monitored. Even more, the same passwords are commonly used for many of these accounts. This puts an insignificant barrier between harmful threats and your organization’s sensitive files and data. 

Although many minimal security measures are in place, it’s important to realize that many third-party apps do not offer proper local encryption and with the data being taken out of an organization’s IT environment, data privacy settings are beyond the control of the enterprise. Finally, most shared network cloud services encourage users to back up data in real-time but that can be risky when you’re dealing with data that wasn’t meant to be shared or viewed by unauthorized personnel. 

Misconception #2: Digital Documents Stored on Shared Network Drives are Compliant

According to the United Nations, 107 countries have put in place legislation to secure the protection of data and privacy. Data privacy is a top concern among businesses and individuals but, in many ways, the use of unmanaged storage locations like third party cloud software or email for file and document sharing directly contradicts that. According to Cyber Risk Analytics, over 3 billion emails were compromised in 2020 and some of the most common reasons for data breaches include weak and stolen credentials (a.k.a. weak passwords), back doors and application vulnerabilities.

Shared network drives often require no guidance for use which means there are no real policies for questions like the following: Where should documents be saved? How should files be named? How long should documents be retained? These questions are critical to compliance laws including GDPR, HIPAA, Ryan White, FERPA, CJIS, and more. Because shared network drives operate as individual entities for the benefit of the end user, information governance isn’t built to benefit the organization and the data it is responsible for. A compliant document management system will have a transparent system for activity logs and audits based government and industry guidelines. 

Digital Document Management Misconceptions

Misconception #3: Digital Documents Stored on Shared Network Drives are Easy to Find

Being able to find and archive files allows teams to work according to consistent processes that they are in sync. Proper search functions also decrease the confusion associated with human error and the wasted time and resources associated with duplicative efforts. One of the best ways to keep track of files and their access privileges is metadata or data that provides information about other data. Unfortunately, shared network drives don’t provide users with metadata in the form of keyword and geotagging. Without this key functionality, teams have no form of metadata management, making documents hard, if not impossible, to find. 

Another common issue in shared network drives is document version control—the process of tracking and managing multiple versions of a document so you know what is the current iteration of a document. Versioning organizes the history of changes and allows for rollbacks if needed. Shared network drives often lack proper and easy-to-use version control, leaving many workers to duplicate documents, work from outdated documentation, and waste time. 

Misconception #4 – Digital Documents Stored on Shared Network Drives are not Vulnerable to Loss

Data is the lifeblood of your business and much of that data lives in documentation. With the amount of data and documentation growing exponentially, it makes sense that many lean on shared cloud services to handle sensitive company and customer information. However, these shared network drives are increasingly vulnerable to data access issues including loss and availability. 

Data loss in shared network drives occurs when data is no longer accessible due to corruption or deletion. The most common cause of data loss is user error including accidental deletion due to a lack of training and understanding of the software. Other times, data loss is simply perceived. Imagine multiple people are working on the same document and someone archives it. A year later, the document is needed but without knowing when and how it is archived, it is impossible to find. That data is effectively lost. Data can also be lost due to hackers or disgruntled employee behavior. 

Another source of frustration in shared network drives is data availability. Data can  become inaccessible because the shared network provider ultimately owns the access to that document or file. This often happens in the form of account suspension due to account violations of spam filters. 

Digital Document Storage Mistakes

Misconception #5 – Storing Digital Documents on a Shared Network Drive is a Long-Term Solution

According to data in Igloo’s 2020 State of the Digital Workplace report, COVID-19 has redefined collaboration but an organization’s success hinges on its ability to mitigate application fatigue. Employees are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tools and increasingly struggling to find internal documents—51% of employees avoid sharing documents because they can’t find them or it would take too long to find them. The COVID-19 pandemic will come to an end, but a reliance on remote work looks like it is here to stay. Letting employees use and rely on a plethora of non-approved document management and communication tools for collaboration is not a sustainable or easily scalable solution. 

It’s no surprise that employees lack confidence in network shared drives for document management—files tend to be allocated across 100s of servers and 1000s of shares. This scattering of data makes automated workflow and consistent processes impossible. Finally, employees often find that shared network drives don’t integrate with their existing toolset, forcing them to work in silos and rely on outdated communication channels. 

Empowering Today’s Workforce with a Document Management System 

Teams lose focus when they have too many or insufficient channels of communication. The past year has increased the demand for a more engaged and effective remote workforce and reliable cloud technology. A key aspect of this is the incorporation of a document management system that is secure and efficient. In order to be future-proof, organizations must empower their workforce with a system that includes features that optimize operations while remaining cost-efficient. 

To learn more about how to choose the right document management system for your organization, check out our Smart Buyer’s Guide to DMS.

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About the Author: Alyssa Cuda

Alyssa Cuda
Alyssa Cuda is a SaaS and B2B content writer based in Austin, Texas. For more than four years, she has been researching and writing about the latest in B2B technology, focusing on the evolution of cloud technologies and the increasingly digital workplace.